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What Are The Different Types of Editor?

Thinking about hiring an editor? First you need to work out which type you want to hire! Essentially, the role of an editor is to improve and fine tune the final draft of a manuscript (MS) to produce a polished and professional piece of work.

But to complicate things slightly, there are three different types of editors that you should be familiar with before hiring one. That’s right, there are different styles and aspects of editing, from broad content editing through to editing on a much more granular level. Some editors might offer all types of editing in one package, but most specialise in one type.

It's important to know which editor does what because every manuscript and every writer’s writing capabilities are different. Therefore, each MS will likely require a different style of editing.

So let's break it down and talk about the different types of editors and what exactly they do:

Developmental Editor

This type of editor focuses on the actual content and the book in its entirety. They are interested in improving the quality of the creative overall. For example in a non-fiction book, a developmental editor will look at whether the content is solid and whether the overall message being delivered is strong enough. If it's not, they'll work on that with the author and make suggestions for how to enhance the overall state of the MS.


There are some grey areas between the jobs of a line editor and a copyeditor and often the two jobs merge into one role. So, make sure you are clear on specifying the deliverables before handing any money over.

Traditionally, copyeditors focus on the stylistic side of your work: what kind of style you use throughout your text; whether you've chosen a suitable tone for your target audience; whether you've communicated your message effectively. Let’s use this sentence as an example:

The dog jumped over the fancy fence, just in time to watch the feisty cat disappear, into the cat-flap.

A copy editor would look at the language and readability of the sentence and question whether “fancy” was the right word to describe a fence and whether the cat should be disappearing “through” the cat-flap, rather than “into” it. A line editor would notice the unnecessary comma after the word "disappear".

Here are some other items a copyeditor would pick out of an MS:

  • Overused expressions and redundant words

  • Repetition of the same message using different words

  • Unnecessary tangents

  • Badly formed and confusing sentences

  • Unclear instructions

Line Editor

A line editor will focus more on the sentence-by-sentence structural aspects of the MS, including grammar and punctuation. Their main job is to look for errors – not areas for improvement as per other types of editors. They will ensure that the sentences read well and make sense within the objective of the MS. They will also pick up on any spelling mistakes. If you’re using multiple editors for different aspects of editing, this should be the final stage of editing to be performed.

Items a line editor will check for:

  • Technical consistency

  • Capitalisation

  • Syntax and correct sentence structure

  • Grammar, punctuation & spelling

  • Some copy editors also carry out fact-checking, especially for non-fiction manuscripts

Editors will either charge per 1000 words, per word or per hour worked, so the longer your MS, the more the editing will cost. Remember, you do NOT need to hire all three editors! Only you can be the judge of which type of editing your MS might need, but here are some things to remember before starting the process of choosing and hiring an editor:

  • Remember, an editor does not write the book for you! If you’re struggling with the actual writing process, you might think about hiring a writing coach. And if you want someone to write the  book for you – you need a ghost-writer.

  • Make sure you’ve completed one or two rounds of your own editing and ideally had the book looked over by at least one other person for feedback. This will save you money in the long run. If you submit your manuscript to the editor too early and it’s still considered ‘first draft’ stage, the editor will likely need a whole extra round of editing just to pick up the things you should have spotted yourself. (Depending on the business model the editor operates, each round could cost you money!)

  • Even if you are an editor, I wouldn’t recommend editing your own work. It’s not about your editing skills, it’s about what you miss being the only pair of eyes working on your MS.

If you're thinking about self-publishing your book but are confused about the process, check out our self-publishing checklist to de-boggle your brain about the whole process! Click here to download.


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